Karl

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 80,000 baht

Q1. How much do you earn from teaching per month?

I earn 80,000 baht per month teaching at an international school in Bangkok

Q2. How much of that can you realistically save per month?

Realistically I could save 25-30k baht per month but I am yet to save anything. I have just paid back a 60,000 baht start up loan and have bought a computer and new phone.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I pay 17k excluding bills for a nice Condo in Silom. It is close to my school and comes with a pool and gym. It is also right next to the BTS.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

I use the BTS and taxis frequently going around Bangkok. I spend around 3k baht in total each month.

Utility bills

My water bill is 150 baht a month and my electric usually is around 1000 baht a month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I am not fond of eating out every day after work as I am usually tired and just want to watch some TV. Eating in tends to be more expensive and I usually spend around 4k a month on eating in. When out I normally get street food or western fast food which is fairly inexpensive and adds around 1,500 baht to the bill. Total spend around 5,500.

Nightlife and drinking

I spend quite a bit on the weekend and usually go out on Friday and Saturday night, plus I normally have a can in the evening after work. The bill will come to around 15,000 baht a month

Books, computers

Unfortunately I was pick pocketed a couple of weeks ago and lost my new phone that I had just spent 20k baht on. Generally I spend a few thousand baht on gadgets a month but it varies dependent on what I want.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

I come from London and I get paid the same in Bangkok but with half the living costs. I love the city, its variety and the heat. I am five times happier here than I was in the UK.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Cigarettes, food and the rent. I pay more than most people for my rent but I love the convenience of the location. I just went on a great holiday, hiking through jungles, riding elephants and white water rafting and it only cost me 3,000 baht.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

Well, if you don’t have my rent and you didn’t go out drinking every weekend I think that you would be able to live on 30K. After all, many Thai people live on a lot less than 30k a month.

Phil's analysis and comment

Karl says that he's 'five times happier than when he lived in London" and that says it all really. But as a single guy pulling in 80,000 baht a month, you're always going to live well in Bangkok. Although Karl's 17,000 baht a month rent will be deemed as 'excessive' by a good many teachers, it's still less than a quarter of his monthly salary. In addition, his utility bills are not too high and he doesn't overspend on food. He clearly enjoys a night out though - 15K on entertainment every month is a fair chunk of his salary. I'm sure Karl would like to save something from that 80K a month as well - and I'm sure he will in time. But there's little doubt about it - Karl's leading a very comfortable existence at the present time. 

If I can be allowed to home in on a couple of details. An ex-colleague once said to me "you don't save that much money by cooking and eating at home compared to buying streetfood, but by God, you certainly eat better" - and I agree with that 100%. If you're fortunate enough to live somewhere with a decent cooking space, learn how to cook if you can't already. Last night I boiled some pasta with a few spoonfuls of pasta sauce. I added some spicy cooked meat that I get from a quality deli counter and get them to slice thickly so I can cut the meat into cubes. Sprinkle in some chopped dried chilli and voila! - a filling, tasty meal for probably about 60-70 baht.

Streetfood is not what it was. And if you go on the Thai discussion forums, even the Thais themselves are moaning about it. Streetfood favorites like "khaw Man Gai' and 'Khaw Na Ped' are all creeping up in price. And I'm convinced that the portions are getting smaller as well. No, streetfood is not the value it once was. Learn to cook and cook at home! 

Interestingly, Karl puts cigarettes in his 'bargains' section. I'm not sure I agree with that anymore. The retail price of a packet of Marlboro is now 90 baht - and they seem to be creeping up in price every couple of months. Let's do the maths for the smokers out there. 90 baht is almost two pounds sterling. I consider the cost of living in Thailand to be a third of what it is in the UK. So therefore two pounds for a packet of fags in Thailand is equivalent to about six pounds in the UK. Well, a packet of cigarettes is currently about 7.50 in England so it's all becoming fairly 'relative' . A twenty-a-day-smoker is still going to puff their way through 2,000 baht a month in Thailand. If you're one of the many 30K-a-month teachers, that's a decent part of your salary going up in smoke.


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